I threw my brother to the wolves over the holiday break….. He has very little time behind the viewfinder and yet wanted to learn about HDR. No better place to go than Princeton University where the photo ops are abundant yet lighting very difficult. Perfect for a tone-mapping newbie.
The first hour or so we explored the outdoors of the campus where the architecture is superb (see my last post) and can also present fairly difficult lighting. I showed him the basics of setting up the camera for auto-bracketing and explained the idea of dynamic range. We talked about the importance of the histogram and preserving the highlights and shadows. He has a fairly good knowledge base regarding lighting and such so extensive explanation wasn’t necessary. He used my tripod, snapped away and chimped with every bracket. Now he’s just starting to get his hands dirty when we arrive at the campus chapel, the third largest university chapel in the world.
We both move around the very dimly lit interior looking for the best perspective to show it’s beauty. Above is one of my first shots. It’s an extremely difficult lighting situation not only because the level of light is so low but also because obtaining the proper white balance is almost impossible. This makes post processing much more tedious because tonemapping tends to exasperate all color issues exponentially. We talk about the importance of a tripod when working with shutter speeds ranging from 1.5 secs. to 20 seconds and the problems with focusing in such a dark environment. I then hand over the tripod and let him have a go. Now the hands are getting real dirty…when it comes to photography….the only way to learn.
The learning curve with tonemapping can be very steep and very frustrating, don’t feel overwhelmed, just get in there, ask a lot of questions and get your hands dirty. My brother Chris did and has done pretty well. In fact he has posted some exterior shots of the campus on his flickr page for all to see…. so go take a look and offer him some encouragement, we all need that right? Nice work Chris!